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Coping With Grief During the Holidays

A depressed adult male looks out a window past Christmas decorations with Christmas lights in the background

The death of a loved one can be traumatic, and during the holidays the feelings of loss can be even more pronounced. While each person grieves differently, the COVID-19 pandemic can make anyone who is grieving feel more isolated and sad. These suggestions may help during this especially difficult time.

  • Make a few decisions: Decide how you want to keep certain holiday traditions going, or how to create new ones. Plan in advance. Consider doing something to honor the memory of your loved one, even if it's a virtual event.
  • Allow yourself to feel: Make space for whatever emotions come along. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you “should” feel. Express your feelings and let yourself cry if you want to.
  • Be patient with yourself: The grieving process may take a long time and it's different for everyone. It may feel like a roller coaster with ups and downs. You may feel better for a while, only to become sad again. That can make you wonder when you can expect relief. Some people are able to use their emotional energy in other ways and to strengthen other relationships.
  • Consider getting some support: Chat, write, or talk about your loss and your memories of the life and death of your loved one. Don’t think you are protecting your family and friends by not expressing your sadness. Ask others for what you need. Find and talk to other people who have lost a loved one.

Your American Cancer Society  can help guide your search for online support groups and other bereavement resources. Call us at 1-800-227-2345.

Helping a child grieve

Grieving can look different in children. They often grieve in spurts, moving between grieving and being interested in everyday things. For example, they might seem sad for a short time, then go back to their usual activities, and then back to grieving again. As they get older, they may continue to grieve, but in different ways.

Help a child grieve in a healthy way by letting them know it’s OK to talk about it. You can also help by taking care of yourself emotionally. If you need help, get it.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.